Analysis: Can Covington be the answer?

It was a very difficult situation to put Chris Covington into Saturday afternoon when Nate Sudfeld went down with a shoulder injury. But the question is simple moving forward? Is Chris Covington the answer if Sudfeld is forced to be out for any length of time? Here's the take from's site publisher Terry Hutchens.

When Nate Sudfeld came off the field with his left shoulder hanging down following a second quarter sack Saturday afternoon at Iowa, Hoosier Nation held its collective breath.

Bottom line: Sudfeld was the one player, more than anyone else, that IU could not afford to lose.

Obviously if you lost The Franchise – Tevin Coleman – that would be a huge blow as well. But at least there D’Angelo Roberts has proved to be a capable backup.

At quarterback, that’s not the case.

It’s a position where IU once had great depth but that was before Cameron Coffman transferred to Wyoming and Tre Roberson opted to leave for Illinois State.

All of a sudden IU went from great depth to ‘Nate Sudfeld had better not get injured’ depth. The early backups listed for Sudfeld included true freshman Zander Diamont and sophomore Nate Boudreau.

Then later, just before the start of the regular season, IU moved true freshman Chris Covington from linebacker to quarterback. He was recruited as an athlete and showed enough in camp to be elevated to the No. 2 quarterback position.

Still, if IU was going to be successful in 2014, one would think that Covington would need to be holding a clipboard and wearing a baseball hat a lot more than cradling a football and wearing a helmet.

Unfortunately, for the Hoosiers that is exactly what happened in Saturday’s 45-29 loss to Iowa. After Sudfeld was driven hard into the ground on his left (non-throwing) shoulder early in the second quarter, Covington was inserted into the lineup.

His first play he was absolutely perfect.

He handed the ball off to Coleman and the junior tailback did the rest, going 45 yards for a touchdown.

After that, though, Covington struggled a lot more than he succeeded. He finished up completing 3-of-12 passes for 31 yards. His first completion was for negative 4 yards. His other two were for 20 yards to Ricky Jones and 15 yards to D’Angelo Roberts. He did run the ball 11 times for 41 net yards with a long gain of 15.

But he was clearly out of sync most of the time. He didn’t look comfortable in the pocket and several times looked off on his timing on the read option. It was an extremely difficult situation to put a true freshman into and Covington looked the part.

Still, the question now turns to what happens next?

If Sudfeld is out for any length of time, is Covington someone you trust running the IU offense?

It’s a tough question. Perhaps with a week of getting all the reps in the offense, Covington could feel more comfortable. He’s a solid dual threat quarterback who could be very much like Roberson was in the offense when he gets comfortable.

But that’s the big question: When will Covington look comfortable?

You would certainly not think that facing a great Michigan State defensive team next Saturday would afford him the opportunity to have a high level of success. And, really, just how much ground can he expect to make up in one quick week?

This is probably being premature in that Sudfeld hasn’t been ruled out of not playing next week. Kevin Wilson said his quarterback will be evaluated on Sunday. He said he has a shoulder separation but wasn’t sure what degree it was. He said Sudfeld could be out anywhere from 1-6 weeks.

So the question becomes, what happens if Sudfeld is out for an extended period of time?

Is Covington the answer? Can he get comfortable enough in the offense and with his options in the read option game to be effective?

Or does IU need to turn to either Diamont or Boudreau? If it was Diamont, it would require lifting his redshirt with six games to go. Would that be worth it? If he was going to play those six games, absolutely. But if he was going to play a game or two and then give way to Sudfeld or something it wouldn’t make much sense.

My early take is that Covington, given a week of full reps, could be ready to go on Saturday. He might not look polished but he wouldn’t have the deer-in-the-headlights look we saw at times at Iowa.

The IU offensive staff needs to develop a game plan for Covington where he can capitalize on some short quick passes as well as utilize his ability to run. Do that, and hand the ball off a lot to Coleman and he’ll be fine.

There is one certainty that we all can cling to though heading into Sunday and Monday. It’s going to be a long and interesting week around Indiana football.

Coverage Central: Iowa 45, IU 29

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Game Analysis: Iowa

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